During the last two weeks nearly all the trees, with the exception of the horse chestnuts alongside the Opera park, have been cut or are presently being cut along Tumanyan Street in a harsh technique called pollarding, a supposedly preventive measure against disease. These severed branches are all young for the most part, some no more than a few years old, others perhaps eight or more. They obviously grew again from the last time this process was undertaken, probably four or five times in the last 16 years since Armenia's independence. I point out this time period because urban trees were not cut during the Soviet era from what I have been told.
I got into an argument with the proud workers who were cutting the trees last week. The excuse they used was that the limbs were drying out. Of all the branches that I saw being cut during the last 14 days or so, only one or two appeared to be dead. They were perfectly healthy, gorgeous, just budding branches. Thick limbs, about five inches in diameter at the most, are trimmed down on the spot into easy-to-burn logs measuring about a foot to sixteen inches long, while the thin, long limbs are piled high like are trimmed grape vines used for firing up tonirs in villages. According to the workers, Yerevan's mayor, Yervand Zakarian, is responsible for giving the orders, and the wood is taken to city hall after it is cut. When I pointed out that the reason why parts of the trees are drying out is because they are periodically being cut for apparently no good reason, one of them accused me of teaching him what to do. I agreed that I was.
This is a recurring problem throughout Yerevan. Five years ago the tall trees along Gomidas Avenue were lobotomized and if I am not mistaken they have also recently been trimmed again. I pointed these issues out in previous posts, criticizing environmental NGOs including the Green Union and Armenia Tree Project for not doing a damn thing about it. After my conversation with the workers, I finally concluded that the intention to sell the wood or at least store the wood for personal use could not have been more blatant.
Trees in Yerevan are natural filters against smog, fresh putrid exhaust, and especially dust, the circulation of which has become a nightmare due to the relentless, irresponsible demolition/construction that has been continuing unabated for the last few years, with only a few high-rise buildings actually being completed thus far. They also beautify the streets, something that is indeed necessary everywhere you go, in any city you visit.
This issue, combined with illegal logging that continues unabated, especially in northern Armenia, seems irresolvable. No matter how much protest is made, nothing can be done to stop it, because very few people actually care. Most of the decorative trees lining Republic Square were removed because they were supposedly dried out. Probably the reason being was that they were hastily trimmed back last fall, then they must have suffered some kind of shock during the winter.
You are not supposed to pollard all kinds of trees--this fact has been documented and can be read on the Internet. But Armenians don't care. Yerevan city hall officials need the wood for lighting barbeques or for making pocket money--there cannot be any other reason why Yerevan's mayor or his boys would want it. I've seen the same thing happen in Vanadzor as well. It infuriates me when I witness this needless cutting going on, knowing that there is nothing I can do about it since no one will obviously listen.
Labels: Personal Experiences, Social and Cultural